Saturday, January 29, 2011

Ancient Greek and Government Sinecure

Best Beloved has decided to learn Ancient Greek. He has wanted to for a long time – both for the academic exercise and in order to read the Classics in the original, and when I told him that Sophia's and my teacher does Ancient Greek as well as Modern, he asked me to arrange lessons for him.

His first class was yesterday, and I took my car to show him the way, planning to leave after the introductions – he had errands to do in town. But her mother, a sweet woman, insisted that I come and drink coffee, so I did.

We chatted quietly in the kitchen, as behind the curtain I could hear Best Beloved explaining to Kyriaki that although he was proficient in Modern Greek, he had no idea of grammar. “I know what a verb is,” I heard him tell her. “But not much else...”

Androulla and I chatted about various things, and I used the occasion to find out a bit more about our teacher. She's twenty-four, studied philology here and went to Germany for her Masters', and has a variety of students from the area, both children and adults, locals and foreigners. “But that's great!” I said. “Teaching every day like that, both here and in others' homes, she's doing very well. Why on earth would she want to start teaching in a school, especially considering that she could be sent anywhere – Larnaca, Polis...” Graduate teachers here have their name added to the government's master list. Sometimes they wait years to be called to a post. Often they change schools, even districts, every two years – seems like a nightmare to me.

“But she hasn't been picked yet,” her mother said. “Her name hasn't come up on the list...”

“She doesn't need to,” I said. “She's a good teacher, and with a steady clientele, she must make a good living.” Don't forget we're talking mother to mother here, gossiping comfortably in Greek and Cypriot dialect, in the cosy kitchen of a village house.

Her mother looked a bit shocked. “Oh no, Asproulla-mou,” she said, shaking her head. “The benefits... We all hope that she'll be called as soon as possible!” And then I remembered. The vast majority of Cypriots aspire to government jobs. Government work is work for life. It includes health insurance, long paid holidays, guaranteed promotion... and pensions.

“My brother and I worked out that if he were to work in the Private sector,” Best Beloved told me the other day. “He would have to work for one hundred and twenty years to receive the same pension that he gets after thirty in Government service.”

That's why our government is so inflated. Everyone wants to hop on board the gravy train. Few people want to take risks in the private sector – even the brightest chose 'security' over the creativity and risk of their own initiative.

Meanwhile, we are selfishly hoping that Kyriaki doesn't get called any time soon. Best Beloved's text books jostle mine on the table, and I enjoy calling him my 'co-nerd', Sophia's looking forward to Greek lessons for the first time in her life “because I'm actually learning something”, and I'm having a good time as well.


  1. I agree read the ancients in first language. Re govt job. A friend in Spain was under tremendous pressure to pass the teacher's cert.Holidays , pensions.

  2. Ancient Greek is my logical next step. I've been invited to a class here locally, I should not let it pass another season. Thanks for the added inspiration.